Ross LaJeunesse of Biddeford, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, in Portland last month. Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald

One of the candidates for U.S. Senate in Maine quit his job last year as the executive in charge of Google’s international relations because the company had veered from its commitment to diversity and human rights.

U.S. Senate candidate Ross LaJeunesse campaigned in November in Lewiston, where he spoke with a college student at Forage Market. Steve Collins/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Ross LaJeunesse, who hopes to become Maine’s next senator, said Thursday that Google’s determination to break into the China market, deal with Saudi Arabia and undertake other overseas ventures left him with no choice but to leave.

He told the Sun Journal that in area after area, Google offered examples of “greed, corruption and abuse of power.”

LaJeunesse, a Biddeford Democrat, detailed his concerns about the company for the first time Thursday in a post on Medium and in an interview with The Washington Post.

In response, Google issued a statement that read: “We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts. That commitment is unrelated to and unaffected by the reorganization of our policy team, which was widely reported and which impacted many members of the team.

As part of this reorganization, Ross was offered a new position at the exact same level and compensation, which he declined to accept. We wish Ross all the best with his political ambitions.”

LaJeunesse said administrative changes would have sharply diminished his role with the company and quieted the voice for human rights within Google.

He quit, he said, because he “felt like it was important to tell the truth,” rather than accept Google’s offer to buy his silence.

“This is a company that has betrayed its principles,” LaJeunesse said.

When Google first created its search engine and began to grow into a large company, its mantra was “Don’t be evil,” a notion that helped LaJeunesse to take a senior management job with the company more than a decade ago.

But things have veered away from that earlier commitment, he said.

“Standing up for women, for the LGBTQ community, for colleagues of color, and for human rights — had cost me my career,” the 50-year-old lawyer wrote in his Medium post. “To me, no additional evidence was needed that ‘Don’t be evil’ was no longer a true reflection of the company’s values; it was now nothing more than just another corporate marketing tool.”

He said Google now values “working with the Chinese government on artificial intelligence or hosting the applications of the Saudi government, including Absher, an application that allows men to track and control the movement of their female family members.”

“Executives hell-bent on capturing cloud computing revenue from Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon had little patience for those of us arguing for some form of principled debate before agreeing to host the applications and data of any client willing to pay,” LaJeunesse said.

He said that two weeks after parting ways with Google, he returned to Maine, where he had not lived in decades.

“It’s where I was born and raised, and where I was taught basic values, like the importance of working hard, standing up for what is right and speaking the truth,” he said.

“Sharing my story with my neighbors and my family has helped me understand why I was so often in conflict with the company’s leaders as Google changed. There are many people here in Maine and throughout the country who live by the credo, ‘Don’t be evil.’”

Added LaJeunesse: “We may not use that language, and we don’t have billion-dollar marketing budgets to convince the world of our goodness. But we live by those words every day, and we expect our government and our corporations to do the same,”

He said he was taking on Republican Sen. Susan Collins because he thinks she has failed to live up to Maine’s values and “betrayed the trust of Mainer’s voters” by supporting the appointment of unqualified judges and a $1.5 trillion tax cut that boosted corporations and the wealthy.

Collins has repeatedly said she weighs each vote carefully, with an eye on whether it will help Maine. In four straight elections, she has convinced a majority of Mainers that she is on their side. This year, despite all the partisan division, she aims to make it five in a row.

LaJeunesse said the U.S. Senate can return to the days when even fiercely partisan senators could work together to get “really important stuff done.”

Among the issues being ignored, he said, are some centered on technology, which he is sure will transform American life in the coming years.

Politicians in Washington, he said, do not have great understanding of the “tsunami of economic change” that is coming as artificial intelligence, facial recognition and other advances begin to enter the marketplace in big ways.

LaJeunesse is one of four Democrats vying for the opportunity to challenge Collins in this year’s election. Also in the race: House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport, activist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell and Saco lawyer Bre Kidman.

In addition, Solon teacher Lisa Savage of the Green Independent Party is seeking a spot on the General Election ballot, along with independents Tiffany Bond of Portland, Danielle VanHelsing of Sangerville and Derek Levasseur of Fairfield.


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